by Alistair Bain (@allybain)
Throughout this article we are going to break down the attacking attributes of each side, assessing who excelled and which teams under performed. Given this is a tournament format which progresses into knockout rounds we are going to weight our metrics in Per 90, which naturally levels out the statistics to factor in each teams total minutes played.
Overall Attack Value
So what we are looking for in this particular study is to find which teams created the highest volume of attacks, and from this assess which side then had the highest attacking value in their attack play by looking at the accumulative expected goals.
Italy, Croatia and Holland are all contenders for this prize, given each of them created a substantial amount of attacking opportunities throughout the matches. With that considered I am going to award this prize to is Italy. While the Italians would record a lower amount of attacks than Holland, they would return a higher xG which shows a level of efficiency to their finishing which balances approach play with finding optimal shooting positions. Italy also ranked in the top 5 in Big Chance Per 90 recording a score of 2.33, which is furthered again by their ranking in the top 5 of Key Passes Per 90, which shows they are creating a high volume of attacks and from it creating quality opportunities.
While Bulgaria and Swtizerland would record the lowest amount of attacks Per 90, Turkey take the prize as the poorest attackers at the tournament. With a marginally better attacks per 90 than the previously mentioned sides, it was the xG per 90 value that solidified it for them. Turkey had the individual quality, certainly in chance creation given those lining up in midfield, added to that Hakan Sukur leading the line as one of the continents top marksmen headed into the tournament, but unfortunately Fatih Terim’s side just couldn’t get any form of rhythm going in their 3 group stage games. A succession of speculative shots from distance and failure to hit the target regularly has been their inevitable undoing when grading their attacking stats. Turkey’s second match of the tournament would see them fail to land a single shot on goal, and overall they would return the tournaments lowest xG on target (0.44). To underline all of this data perhaps the easiest and most digestible statistic was that Turkey were the only side at Euro 96 to fail to score a goal.
On Target Analysis
To follow on from the last study here we will grade each teams attacking performance first of all looking at their efforts which either results in a save or a goal, and then weigh them against their xG value from their shots on target.
The clear winner of this prize has to go to Croatia, who despite some challenging situations at this tournament would come out with their reputation very much enhanced. In all four of Croatia’s matches they would outperform each of their opponents in Attacks Created, Attacks on Target and xG, all areas that you’d be looking to dominate within to give yourself the best chance of victory. What Croatia showed us in creating 1.76 expected goals per 90, which is a solid return even over a small sample size, that they would do so and hit 50% of this value from attacks on target, a higher % than any other side in the tournament.
Turkey once again continue as bottom of the pile in this category, but we have to mention Romania and Russia in this picture two. Both of those sides entered the tournament with pretty heft expectations, especially the Russian’s who had absolutely breezed through qualification and were building a side capable of competing at that level. The Romanian’s were still riding the crest of a wave from World Cup 94, but in Hagi, Raducioiu and Lacatus they had a front three that could rival any side at the competition, yet as a unit they were unable to generate enough meaningful attacks to warrant a victory at the tournament.
Penalty Box Analysis
In this final analysis we look at the sides who created the most attacks inside the Golden Zone (the central portion within the 18 yard box), and from there decipher who performed the best given their xG performance from attacks within this zone.
Denmark entered this tournament as the reigning champions, but given all of the research we conducted on pre-tournament favorites it appears that the Danes were never fully considered as contenders. In Brian Laudrup they had one of Europe’s best attacking talents, with the Rangers forward ably assisted by his older brother Michael who at this point was ending his career but had still operated at the pinnacle of the game for almost a decade. Certainly beyond these two there was a drop off in talent, but what impressed me most about Denmark was their total understanding of how they wanted to play and each player then buying into it. Denmark would create 42 attacks overall, with 26 taking place inside the box, and their largest accumulation of Key Passes would come from crosses (12 in total out of 31). These stats back up the fact they created lots of crossing opportunities in the match, but within this they ranked 3rd best in Big Chance creation (10 in total) therefore showing us that these weren’t aimless balls into the middle, their attack play was thought out and generated some efficient opportunities for the attackers.